Discovered at the Rathdown Castle site in 1985, the Rathdown Hoard is the largest 16th/17th century hoard found outside of Ulster. There were several separate finds from the general vicinity of the castle, suggesting that Rathdown was a place of considerable importance.
The Hoard consists of 79 shillings and 324 sixpences, mostly of Elizabeth 1st. The other coins date from 1553 (Queen Mary) to 1607 (James 1st). Some of the coins are Irish, with a harp, but minted in London.
Included in the Hoard are 2 Spanish Reales (pieces of two) of Ferdinand and Isabella (1469 – 1504), suggesting overseas trading.
Rathdown Castle was an important military stronghold. The field to the north of the castle site is still known as Troopers’ Field, and an orally-transmitted tradition also gives the name of the coastline from Bray to Greystones as Troopers’ Bay. It wasn’t uncommon for coins to be buried like this in times of battle, as a precautionary measure, and then perhaps go unclaimed due to death, imprisonment or other factors.
Smal, Chris (1993) Ancient Rathdown and St. Crispin’s Cell, A uniquely historic landscape, Friends of Historic Rathdown, Greystones.
‘ The hoard was discovered in the late Autumn of 1985 near the edge of a cliff, immediately overlooking Greystones beach, on the northern or Bray side of Greystones village. The actual find-spot is in the townland of Rathdown Upper, about 150 yards north of the ruins of Rathdown Castle, and beside the old track of the Great Southern Railway.
If indeed the Rathdown coins were deposited in anticipation of or as a result of some violent incident, the last decade of the 16th century witnessed numerous bloody struggles, with any of which the the deposit might have been associated. The O’Tooles and O’Byrnes continued to resist the English administration in Dublin – as they had done in previous centuries – and defied all attempts to subdue them until the very end of the century.
On occasion they threatened Dublin itself, and the attempts of successive Lord Deputies to “pacify” Wicklow led to much fighting, skirmishing and raiding. The allies raided deep into the Pale and burned as far as the outskirts of Dublin.
Rathdown, strategically situated on the Dublin-Wicklow coastal route, doubtless witnessed the frequent movement of troops and supplies during this period as successive Lord Deputies sought to hem in the stubborn Wicklow clans. While it must be emphasised that the hoard in question here may be quite unconnected with the events described above, the general background is one against which the loss or hurried concealment of coins would be quite understandable.’
– Michael Kenny, National Museum of Ireland.